As some of you might know, after 9 years of living south of San Pedro town, I now live on North Ambergris Caye. Over 7 miles north of town. And every single day, with the rare exception, we drive to town – for work, for shopping, for meetings…we drive to and from town.
Since the paving of the road up to about Mile 4 in 2014/2015 and the widening and grading of the road up to about Mile 10, this is now the main way people get to homes, resorts and beaches on the north part of Ambergris Caye. Over the bridge from town and up the road.
Until 2014/2015, almost everyone who traveled north – especially farther than a mile or two – went by boat. The road was in AWFUL…little more than a mud pit in parts…and most tourists and guests saw their resorts and rental homes for the first time when they arrived at the dock.
But now (and for the last 2 years), the point of entry – the front entrance to northern Ambergris Caye resorts is the road. What used to be out back…the “back yard”…”the bush” is now where new guests form their first impressions. Whether they are arriving in the resort van or in a golf cart rental of their own – the very first impressions of our gorgeous island are gained while driving on the road.
AND, I don’t know the nice way to say this so I will just say it: The road north looks like a giant garbage dump.
The garbage and litter up north is GETTING WORSE.
Here is a wildlife experience I had yesterday while in my golfcart. On the road. Just next to a gorgeous resort’s entrance. What a pretty ibis 🙁
We all know about the fight against trash, particularly plastics, in our oceans. It’s an epic battle being waged worldwide, a struggle by millions – it is being fought here, daily, on our beautiful beaches in Belize. Cruise ships, waste from mainland rivers, from our own garbage, it’s a problem that needs to be attacked from so many different angles.
But driving up and down the road this last week, I want to focus on a trash problem that I am hard pressed to understand. One that needs to be attacked from ONE angle. An issue that seems hard to explain and one that seems to be perpetrated by some of the key stake holders in the industry that is the common thread between every one of us on this island: tourism.
Now let’s picture this – it will be easier for some of you than others – but picture it. You own a condo at a large very well appointed resort on North Ambergris Caye – or you own a gorgeous multi-million dollar beach front home. You poured lots of money into it – and it’s your oasis away from “real life”.
You want your beach and your landscaping to be beautiful – maybe you rent your place out on VRBO or AIRBnb – you have a caretaker, a team, or the resort has an entire maintenance staff to keep things looking perfect.
You have an interest…a huge interest…in this island, in keeping it beautiful, a desirable place to visit, a place where real estate values continue to climb and where people continue to visit.
So each day…your team collects the beach trash and you load up a wheelbarrow or 10 and you…you…you…throw it on the road side behind your house?!?
Maybe 5 years ago, this was back in the bush where no one saw it…but now this is your FRONT ENTRANCE. Plowing trash – boxes, yard waste, plastics – not just across the road but into one of the most fragile eco-systems on our island – the lagoon?
Here is a photo of the lagoon just across from a huge resort – where tourists are sometimes invited by the staff to interact with the wild life (ILLEGAL).
This is NOT trash from people that don’t have the time or resources to deal with it – these properties have STAFF – paid staff – that work for them. Do what they need done. And as you, the guest, exits the parking lot to head to town, you look RIGHT AT THIS.
Now before anyone gets mad at me for “spreading this on social media” or for showing the island in a negative light, please look at some of my other posts. I don’t want to see any part of the island this way. If you think I am exposing a secret then here is what I have to say…THIS IS NOT A SECRET! EVERYONE can see it. Tourists may have their rose-colored vacation glasses on but they are not blind.
We talk about others tossing trash. But how can we possibly expect kids or adults or anyone not to litter on our beautiful island when the very resorts and land owners, are laying down what looks like a garbage dump on their own properties. It almost seems correct to throw just one more bottle here…or why not a whole garbage bag?
It is, after all, a dump. Right?
The entire ride is an embarrassment to a town this great – to an island that CARES about the environment and definitely cares about the industry that employs all of us.
So…I’ll ask: Those who are charging $200 or $500 or $1000US per night can not properly dispose of their garbage?
And leave it at that. Or…wait…not yet. It’s THAT insane!
I challenge these owners (NO, I am not talking to everyone – some spots look great. But the majority do not) to change the way that they are “cleaning up” their properties. To properly dispose of waste – rather than tossing it on the other side of the street or plowing it into our lagoon.
Use the garbage boat that picks up trash north – hire a pick-up truck to take the trash to the dump. Ask the town council what they suggest.
What used to be your “out of sight, out of mind” is now the first thing our visitors see when they come to my favorite island in the world.
***One quick note: The garbage is particularly pronounced right now – a crew from the electricity company came forth with machetes and “cleaned” the roadside. They hacked every living plant and tree within a few feet of the road and the utility poles.
Down came the plants and man…all you can see is trash. But on a 1/2 mile stretch of land – the portion of the road that runs by Mata Grand Grocery – one man cleaned up all the trash in less than one day. Hired by a local resort owner, he got down and dirty and bagged up at least 8 huge trash bags filled with litter. One day – paid less than $100bzd.
Makes you think.
***All photos taken between my house and the bridge.